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Tassie 1/30

Friday, January 31, 2014

Oh what a glorious night. Nice soft bed after that wonderful deep tissue massage and then the dinner that was made to perfection. I even still smell like the Chocolate massage oil. Love it! I'll have to get another one before we leave. I'll have to fit it in somehow. Hehehe.

At least today will be nice and easy. The first thing we're going to do is a nice short easy stroll/walk. The Enchanted Stroll. What a cool name that is. I hope to see some fairy's or other cute wildlife. emoticon

The Enchanted Stroll has for company a cascading river, wombat burrows and magical old-growth rainforest.

The walk will take us through buttongrass moorland before entering cool temperate rainforest along the edges of Pencil Pine Creek. Along the track are three interpretive tunnels that kids and kids at heart will find fun to crawl through!

Buttongrass moorland is low vegetation dominated by sedges (grass-like plants) and heaths and usually growing in poorly drained sites. The most typical species is commonly known as ‘buttongrass’ (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus). Buttongrass is a member of the sedge family – Cyperaceae. Buttongrass moorlands occupy some of the most nutrient poor situations to be found in the world and are one of the most fire-adapted ecosystems to have evolved.

Buttongrass is very common in western Tasmania. It also occurs in other areas of south eastern Australia (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales) though it is less common there than in Tasmania. In Tasmania buttongrass moorlands occupy more than one million hectares, approximately one seventh of the island. It is the most common vegetation type in many parts of the west and south west of the State where annual rainfall exceeds 1000 mm. While it does occur in eastern Tasmania it is confined to creek lines and depressions.


Tasmania contains Australia's largest tracts of cool temperate rainforest, covering around 10% of the State. Cool temperate rainforest is very different from rainforest found in warmer climates. Unlike tropical and warm temperate rainforests, there are no root buttresses or palms, and climbing plants are rare.

Cool temperate rainforest is characterised by an open and verdant, cathedral-like quality; a silent, cool, dark and damp place where both the trunks of trees and the forest floor are festooned with a luxuriant carpet of mosses and lichens. In autumn and early winter in particular, the rainforest floor is dappled with an array of brightly coloured fungi.

Defining Tasmania's cool temperate rainforest is difficult, partly because it can grow in so many different habitats. However, there are generally three things to look out for:

Most rainforest grows in areas receiving over 1/200 mm of rain a year, but some isolated patches occur in much drier areas;

It is dominated by particular trees, such as myrtle, leatherwood, celery-top pine, sassafras, Huon pine, pencil pine, King Billy pine or deciduous beech maybe important in some areas;

and species living in rainforest don't require disturbance, such as fire, to reproduce, and are generally disadvantaged by disturbance, which allows in light-dependant, short-lived competitors.

Myrtle Beech Tree

The celery-top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) is so named due to the resemblance of its 'leaves' to those of celery. In fact, these are not true leaves, but rather cladodes (flattened stems); although very young seedlings have needle-like leaves. the development of cladodes is thought to be an adaptation to the low light levels often present in the habitat in which this species occurs. The tree grows to 30 m in height and may attain a maximum age of 800 years.

Today this slow-growing tree is exploited as a by-product of clearfelling in old-growth forests and is commonly used for external cladding and poles in the building industry.

Celery Top Pine "Leaves"

Tasmanian rainforest contains some of the most ancient species of Australia's flora. Many of their ancestors once grew in Antarctica, Africa, South America and New Zealand, when these continents were joined together as a landmass called Gondwana. So our rainforest dates back over 60 million years, well before what we now call "sclerophyll vegetation" evolved (like eucalypts and acacias). Particularly ancient genera with fossil and pollen evidence to support their presence and evolution within Tasmania include Agastachys, Athrotaxis, Anopterus, Archeria, Bellendena, Cenarrhenes, Dicksonia, Eucryphia, Phyllocladus, Microcachrys, Microstrobos, Nothofagus, Orites, Lomatia, Tasmannia, and Telopea.

Along the western bank of the Pencil Pine Creek you will come across several wombat burrows just on the edge of the track. Wombats do occur in the area, although you are more likely to see them around dusk and dawn. The species occurring in Tasmania, the common wombat, is one of three species found in Australia.

The wombat is the largest burrowing mammal. Wombats often dig their burrows in the areas above creeks and gullies. Burrows can be up to 20 m long and more than 2 m below the ground.

Showing the teeth

Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. One distinctive adaptation of wombats is their backwards pouch. The advantage of a backwards-facing pouch is that when digging, the wombat does not gather soil in its pouch over its young. Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage, treating fences as minor inconveniences to be gone through or under, and leaving distinctive cubic feces.

Wombats are herbivores; their diets consist mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots. Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of the placental rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation. Like many other herbivorous mammals, they have a large diastema between their incisors and the cheek teeth, which are relatively simple.

Wombats' fur can vary from a sandy colour to brown, or from grey to black. All three known extant species average around a meter in length and weigh between 44 and 77 lb.

Female wombats give birth to a single young in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days. They have well-developed pouches, which the young leave after about six to seven months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months, and are sexually mature at 18 months.

After our stroll we all ended up going to the Devils@Cradle Sanctuary where we learned all about Tasmanian Devils.

Tasmanian devils are the largest living marsupial carnivore the approximate size of a solid squat dog. Males are generally larger at 8-10 kg but have been recorded as large as 14kg! Powerfully built, the males are characterised by a massive head and chest. The head and neck alone can account for as much as 40% of their weight. The jaw line of the males is also much squarer than the smaller females. Females average 6-7kg and are more proportionate in their build. A large head and powerful jaws give them a fierce appearance but they are ideal adaptations. Devils are Australia's only specialised mammalian scavenger, fulfill a similar niche and share similar morphology to brown hyenas or wolverines. They consume all parts of a carcass except the largest bones. Fur, bone shards and grey coloration make devil feces easily distinguished from other Tasmanian species.

A Tasmanian devil has 42 teeth in total, which is the same dentition as the canids.
Four incisors top, 3 bottom, 1 canine top and bottom, 2 premolars top and bottom and 4 molars top and bottom on each left and right half of their jaw. The single set of teeth continue to grow throughout their life and are fully erupted from their jaw at 2 years. A devil can be accurately aged by the degree of eruption and then wear of each tooth. By the age of 5 years (the life expectancy of a wild devil) the teeth are badly worn or damaged and in some cases they have fallen out. A devil with damaged or missing teeth is less capable of competing and will therefore slowly starve.

Devils are equipped with a pentadactyl (five digits) front limb but they do not have an opposable thumb. Each front digit has a short sharp claw which allows the species to dig effectively for denning and foraging. They are also capable of firmly grasping prey and food items and facilitating grooming. They also have partial webbing between the first and second knuckle which may also facilitate the use of the front limbs for digging and swimming. Devils are quite powerful swimmers, paddling 'dog' style with their front limbs and trailing their rear limbs behind. Devils will generally swim across a water source rather than walking a distance around it.

The rear limbs are shorter than the front limbs which gives the species a Hyena like stance. The rear limbs are equipped with four digits and are not used for grasping. The structure of the rear limb is radically different from the front and facilitates climbing.

The front limbs move independently of each other in a left right pattern but the back legs move together. It is a very unusual gait that is thought to have evolved from tree climbing ancestors rather than ground dwelling. The gait is also very efficient burning little energy as the animals covers large distances each night. Devils are also reasonable sprinters and can run at 25-35km/hr for many hundreds of meters. They have excellent stamina and can run at around 10-12km/hr for several kilometers. Much of their hunting is believed to revolve around their stamina and stealth rather than out right speed. One paper suggests that devils snap at their prey chasing it down over a reasonable distance. Despite this devils are opportunistic predators so they would be killing weak and injured animals long before fit and healthy specimens that require long and dangerous pursuits.

The species is also very fond of water and are powerful swimmers. A biologist witnessed a devil powerfully swimming across the 50m expanse of the Arthur River on the west coast of the state. Devils also utilize the evaporative and cooling effects of water on hot days and will also paddle and dangle their front limbs in water.

Devils are also characterised by their unusual carbon black coloured fur in contrast to the asymmetrical and individual white markings on the chest, flank and base of tail. Not all devils have these markings as around 5% of the population are all black. Of those that have white markings no two are the same. There are several theories but the white probably aids in the break up of an otherwise characteristic silhouette making devil's camouflage far more effective. It is also believed that the markings may aid in recognition between individuals.

Devils are solitary by nature, hunting alone. They are a gregarious species and a number of animals will congregate on a carcass. Around the carcass a very dynamic order develops between individuals rather than the rigid hierarchy that social animals like dogs develop. Most of the vocalising and squabbling that devils are famous for is ritualised threat display or bluff. Devils have been shown to have 11 vocalizations and 20 postures. Posturing is therefore just as important in devil communication as vocalizations. The vocalizations range from soft barking snorts and monotone growling to full blown screams. Devils also use visual and chemical signals in communication. They have an ano-genital scent gland at the base of the tail. They scent mark by dragging this scent gland across the ground. Devils are thought by people to have poor eyesight. All evidence suggests that they have black and white vision that is movement dependent. The white markings across the chest and abdomen would exaggerate the posturing and the contrast would be distinctly visible at night.

The most dominant animal in a feeding aggregation is not usually dislodged from the carcass until it has eaten its fill. A devil is a gorge feeder like most carnivores and can easily gorge approximately 40% of its weight in 20-30 minutes. Digestion can not occur this rapidly so the abdomen swells impressively which usual results in the animal waddling off from the carcass.

The diet of Tasmanian devil is very opportunistic. Devils will scavenge carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, fruit and vegetation as well as predate on smaller, weak and injured or naive mammalian prey. Of a carcass a devil is capable of digesting the flesh, bones and fur. Young devils are much more agile climbers than adults so their diet includes arboreal mammal and invertebrate species, birds and eggs. Juvenile devils learn quickly through vocalizations and appears to learn through repetition to congregate in a feeding aggregation around a carcass. Young devils can also be very diurnal in their behaviour and therefore avoid a lot of competition with the larger more experienced adult devils. Diurnal and arboreal behaviour puts devils in competition with Spotted-tail quolls which at 3-7 kg can also be threatening to a juvenile.

After learning all about the Devils we took our sack lunches and went in the Park Explorer bus ride. It was nice to let someone else drive for a while. Some of the places we went to was Dove Lake. Our Guide was truly experienced as he pointed out all the alpine flora and fauna. The Button grass plains, Rainforest trees, King Billy Pines that were thousands of years old and more animals than I knew what to do with.

When we got back to the hotel we just stayed on the bus so we could join the A Night with the Animals tour. It was getting a bit dark so I got my sweater just incase I needed it.

We were all chatting up a storm on the bus. I have to say that for me it was kind of anticlimactic because I learned so much earlier on in the day. After our very kind guide finished our tour he drove us back to our hotel. There we finally had dinner!

I ended up having dinner in my room because I really needed to lay down after being up for so long. Everyone was so nice about it but I really felt bad. The dinner was just incredible like last night. I can't wait for tomorrow's adventure! I just love learning and boy am I learning a ton!

Time for sleep!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JUDITH316 8/13/2014 6:48AM

    emoticon blog, I enjoyed all the history and pictures, I didn't know the facts about the Wombats and Tanzanian Devils, very interesting... emoticon for sharing an enlightening post...

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EMMABE1 2/1/2014 5:02AM

    Great blog again - lots of great information. The wombats I have here are gray in colour - they waddle round snuffling - looking for food i guess. For some reason the dogs aren't interested in them - maybe because they only move slowly!!

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SHERYLP461 1/31/2014 9:07AM

    Envious of your massage, looks like you are having a great trip. Thanks for sharing the trip and the photo's

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GHOSTFLAMES 1/31/2014 5:04AM

    emoticon emoticon

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Tassie 1/26 - 29

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What a great day it is today. Australia Day is a blast! There was everything from shows to competitions that we were able to compete in. I passed on that but we were invited to. The music was great with such variety. We ended up at Henley on Mersey for the "real Aussie" celebration and was not disappointed.

I have to say that I thought we were supposed to be losing weight not gaining it. The food there was incredible. The smells from the BBQ as well as the Gourmet booths just about did me in. I was able to find plenty of food for me which is what I really like about this trip. As the evening drew near Ann got us all in one place. It just happened to be the perfect spot to view the Fireworks. We all just loved it!

After that we all traveled to our accommodation for the night. The Lucas Hotel in Latrobe. What a wonderful place to be. After all that food I was happy I ended up walking it off. That's the great thing about being vegetarian. It's easy to walk it off. emoticon

The Lucas Hotel is actually a complex that caters to the business person. They have everything there from a business complex to a gym and a first class restaurant!

I ate the Vegetarian Filo Parcel. It had Roasted pumpkin, spinach and Feta cheese wrapped in Filo Dough and perfectly cooked in an oven. The Dough was light and crunchy with the inside perfectly blended with spices that complemented everything. For dessert I had the Sticky Date Pudding. That was a pudding made out of rich dates smothered in butterscotch sauce and fresh whipped cream. Not the whipped cream from a can that deflates within minutes. It was fresh whipped cream with fresh vanilla in it. It was so sinful but I have to admit I ate every bite and didn't feel one bit guilty!

Latrobe is an interesting little town. This is what I learned about it. Latrobe is a town in northern Tasmania on the Mersey River. It is 8 km south-east of Devonport on the Bass Highway. It is the main center of the Latrobe Council. At the 2006 census, Latrobe had a population of 2,843.

The area was first settled by B. B. Thomas in 1826 and, in 1861, the settlement was named for Charles Joseph Latrobe (1801-1875), the administrator of the colony of Tasmania.
La Trobe Post Office opened on August 31, 1860 and was renamed Latrobe in 1873.

The Mersey Community Hospital is located in Latrobe. It is approximately a 100-bed hospital that provides services including: ambulatory and emergency, general adult medicine, general paediatric medicine, general surgery including orthopaedic, ear, nose and throat, ophthalmological, certain oncology services, limited rehabilitation services and allied health support. From September 1, 2008, the Hospital is owned by the Commonwealth and operated by the Tasmanian Government.

Mersey Community Hospital

I was very happy that none of us needed to go to hospital. As good as it is, it's always better to stay out of a hospital unless you are visiting.

I had a great sleep that night. The bed was just perfect for me. I woke up and had incredible fruits and breads for breakfast. Our first stop is at a Fuchsia Farm. I so love Fuchsias! I hope I can buy some and ship them home.

Stephanie Mason was the owner of the farm. She started out with only 2 and now has 1700 different varieties! She also knows a lot of fuchsia lore as well and was very happy to share it with us. The items that have fuchsias on them that she has collected are varied and odd. She has a place called Lillico where she sells the plants as well as items to pot them into that are just magical.

I loved the miniatures. I never knew that Fuchsias came in Miniatures! They were so cute and delicate I had to buy one to ship home. I also bought several doubles in different colors that I have never found in the States. They were the Red and Orange colors. The other thing that I learned was that they needed to be pruned! I never knew that they don't flower on the old branches just the new ones. So this next winter I need to prune not only the new ones I bought but the older one I already have as well. lol

Our drive through Forth was uneventful. It was a small country town. One of those where you blink and you miss it.

We stopped in Tasmazia. We just had to see all the mazes. I thought that it was funny that this place was in a town called Promised Land. LOL I just hoped that they made sure to help us out if we got lost in a maze.

I really love that they support the Make-a-Wish Foundation. That is a great foundation.

The Pancake Parlor was just wonderful. The variety of pancakes were good and so tasty! They are definitely large enough for several people to share and I saw that happening all around me.

After a great meal I went to the Lavender fields and just walked around smelling all the lavender they had there. The soil was great as well. Just enough natural pumice to make it have great drainage but enough soil to feed the plants. It's perfect because lavender doesn't like to have it's roots sitting in water.

Which way is up?

Right turn.

If only we could....

After we finished there we went to the city of Sheffield which is known as the "Town of Murals". Sheffield is a town 23 km inland from Devonport on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Sheffield has long been the rural hub for the Mount Roland area. The Sheffield area is well known for its high quality butterfat production via dairy farming. The town of Railton is nearby. At the 2006 census, Sheffield had a population of 1,397.

Sheffield was one of the many early townships settled in 1859. The town was named by Edward Curr after his home town in South Yorkshire, England. The Kentishbury Post Office opened on November 1, 1862 and was renamed Sheffield in 1882.

The area grew slowly and the commencement of the Mersey-Forth Power Development Scheme in 1963 saw the town grow dramatically. The completion of the power scheme - seven dams and seven power stations - in 1973 saw the town's population decline. The catalyst that would bring Sheffield both fame and fortune began as a desperate bid by a small, but dedicated band of local residents determined to save their town.

Inspired by the story of Chemainus, a small Canadian town that had through mural art, rescued itself from ruin, the Kentish Association for Tourism (KAT) worked valiantly on the vision to combine the arts and tourism to revive and reinvent the town of Sheffield.
Sheffield has become a major tourist attraction due to it being promoted as a "Town of Murals", based upon the instrumental contributions of the Kentish Association for Tourism (currently known as Sheffield Inc) and local tourism pioneer Brian Inder.

The first town mural was painted in Sheffield in December 1986. Since then over 60 murals depicting the area's rich history and beautiful natural scenery are painted on walls scattered throughout the town and buildings along the roadside. The murals attract an estimated 200,000 people to the town annually.

In the heart of Sheffield, there are a number of studios open to the public where visitors can watch the artists as they do their work. There are artists of every discipline, including photography, fine art, glass, woodcraft, pottery, ceramics and specialised crafts.

The International Mural Fest art competition has been held annually since 2003 and returns in April each year. A poem is selected which the artists use as their inspiration. After each competition the 9 finalist murals remain on display at Mural Park for approximately 12 months until the next competition. In 2012, an interactive mural and workshops were added to the artistic activities of the festival for the Mural Fest 10th anniversary celebrations.

2012 Winner

Sheffield is surrounded by many natural attractions that are all very picturesque and encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy nature.

They have Waterfall Walks, Short Walks, Day Walks as well as Overnight Treks. Many of the 200,000 people that visit go on these walks and Treks as well as looking at the Murals.

After having a nice break from driving walking about Sheffield we again pack back into the vans and drive right through Ugbrook but stop at Chudleigh. The reason we stopped there is the Melita Honey Farm! HONEY!!! Ah that wonderful golden syrup of sweetness in all its forms.

We drive up and are out of the vans like a shot! They have a museum where they educate the public on the lovely bees. They have a working hive that has a clear panel where we could see all the bees working away. They also have audio visual and static displays to further explain the life of the bee and the way it helps nature as well as us.

Interesting items made out of Honeycomb wax

After a quick romp through the museum we all found the tasting station. There they had 50 kinds of honey not to mention the Honey Ice Cream and the fruit honeys. Someone even found the Red Chili Honey. I never found it but it doesn't sound like something I would even like.

I did find the gift shop and the wonderful world of Nougat! I have to say I bought several types. The Cappuccino, Ginger and Strawberry Nougats. I also bought the Leatherwood Nougat. They were all fresh and so delicious I really wanted to buy them all but I did limit myself.

Ahhh, Nougat

Once we were done with that we wandered over to Silk. It was interesting to see the difference between how the Japanese raise the silk worms and how it is done on Tasmania. My relatives in Japan raise silk worms so I was familiar with this already.

The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth, Bombyx mori (Latin: "silkworm of the mulberry tree"). It is an economically important insect, being a primary producer of silk. A silkworm's preferred food is white mulberry leaves, but it may also eat the leaves of any other mulberry tree (i.e., Morus rubra or Morus nigra) as well as the Osage orange.

Maclura pomifera, commonly called Osage orange, hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bois d'arc, bodark, or bodock is a small deciduous tree or large shrub, typically growing to 26–49 ft tall. It is dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants. The fruit from a multiple fruit family, is roughly spherical, but bumpy, and 3–6 inches in diameter. It is filled with a sticky white latex. In fall, its color turns a bright yellow-green. It is not closely related to the orange: Maclura belongs to the mulberry family, Moraceae, while oranges belong to the family Rutaceae.

Osajin and pomiferin are flavonoid pigments present in the wood and fruit, comprising about 10% of the fruit's dry weight. The plant also contains the flavonol morin.

The Silk worm is entirely dependent on humans for its reproduction and does not occur naturally in the wild. Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been underway for at least 5,000 years in China, from where it spread to Korea and Japan, and later to India and the West. The silkworm was domesticated from the wild silkmoth Bombyx mandarina which has a range from northern India to northern China, Korea, Japan and the far eastern regions of Russia. The domesticated silkworm derives from Chinese rather than Japanese or Korean stock. It is unlikely that silkworms were domestically bred before the Neolithic age: it was not until then that the tools required to facilitate the manufacturing of larger quantities of silk thread had been developed. The domesticated B. mori and the wild B. mandarina can still breed and sometimes produce hybrids.

Mulberry silkworms can be categorized into 3 different, but connected groups or types. The major groups of silkworms fall under the univoltine ('uni-'=one, 'voltine'=brood frequency) and bivoltine categories. The Univoltine breed is generally linked with the geographical area within greater Europe. The eggs of this type hibernate during winter due to the cold climate, and cross fertilize only by spring, generating silk only once annually. The second type of breed is called Bivoltine and is normally found in Asian regions such as China, Japan, and Korea. The breeding process of this type takes place twice annually, a feat made possible through the slightly warmer climates and the resulting two lifecycles. The Polyvoltine breed of mulberry silkworm can only be located in the tropics. The eggs are laid by female moths and hatch within nine to twelve days, so the resulting type can have up to 8 separate life cycles throughout the year.

Eggs take about fourteen days to hatch into larvae, which eat continuously. They have a preference for white mulberry, having an attraction to the mulberry odorant cis-jasmone. They are very, very loud and you can hear them outside the housing of them while they eat!

When the color of their heads turns darker, it indicates that they are about to molt. After molting, the instar phase of the silkworm emerges white, naked, and with little horns on the backs.

After they have molted four times, their bodies become slightly yellow and the skin becomes tighter. The larvae will then enter the pupa phase of their life cycle and enclose themselves in a cocoon made up of raw silk produced by the salivary glands. The cocoon provides a vital layer of protection during the vulnerable, almost motionless pupal state.

The moth – the adult phase of the life cycle – have lost the ability to fly, contrary to the wild Bombyx mandarina whose males fly to meet females. Silkmoths have a wingspan of 1.5–2 inches and a white hairy body. Females are about two to three times bulkier than males (for they are carrying many eggs), but are similarly colored. Adult Bombycidae have reduced mouth parts and do not feed, though a human caretaker can feed them.

The cocoon is made of a thread of raw silk from 1,000 to 3,000 feet long. The fibers are very fine and lustrous, about 1/2,500th of an inch in diameter. About 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons are required to make a pound of silk. At least 70 million pounds of raw silk are produced each year, requiring nearly 10 billion pounds of cocoons.

If the animal is allowed to survive after spinning its cocoon and through the pupa phase of its life cycle, it will release proteolytic enzymes to make a hole in the cocoon so that it can emerge as a moth. These enzymes are destructive to the silk and can cause the silk fibers to break down from over a mile in length to segments of random length, which seriously reduced the value of the silk threads. To prevent this, silkworm cocoons are boiled. The heat kills the silkworms and the water makes the cocoons easier to unravel. Often, the silkworm itself is eaten. In Japan they feed the pupa to their Koi since it is very rich in protein.

Here are some of the fantastic items they have for sale.

At the same place they also sold fudge. These two were my favorites.

Brandied Apricot

Caramel Chocolate Swirl

After we sampled the fudge we loaded back into the vans for the last part of our trip for the day. On to Mole Creek. Mole Creek is a little village that has a wonderful bed and breakfast called Mole Creek Lodge Bed and Breakfast of course. lol It is a beautiful place to stay with trees all around.

Mole Creek Lodge

After eating a light dinner we went on a walk to Westmoreland Falls. We drove to the trailhead and walked from there. The way there was beautiful with not only trees but ferns, lichen and many other forms of nature all about.

We returned and I was so tired I almost passed out in my clothes. Luckily someone woke me up so I could get ready for bed before I went to bed.

This morning after a refreshing sleep and hearty breakfast we all went to the Liffey Falls. What a spectacular sight it was as well. The new upper car park was nice especially the flush toilets. After looking at the falls we went to the two caves in the area.

The caves are in Mole Creek Karst National Park. It is some of the most visited caves in the area.

It is the only national park in Tasmania created specifically to protect karst landforms. It is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site.

Karst topography is a geological formation shaped by the dissolution of a layer or layers of soluble bedrock, usually carbonate rock such as limestone or dolomite, but also in gypsum. It has also been documented for weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions.

Subterranean drainage may limit surface water with few to no rivers or lakes. Many karst regions display distinctive surface features, with cenotes and sinkholes (also called dolines) being the most common. However, distinctive karst surface features may be completely absent where the soluble rock is mantled, such as by glacial debris, or confined by one or more superimposed non-soluble rock strata. Some karst regions include thousands of caves, although evidence of caves large enough for human exploration is not a required characteristic of karst.

The national park was declared in 1996 to provide protection for an extensive system of over 300 known caves and sinkholes, including Marakoopa and King Solomons Cave.

Marakoopa Cave features two underground streams, glow-worms, large caverns, rim pools, reflections and shawl and flowstone features. King Solomons Cave includes shawls, stalactites and stalagmites.

The first one we went to is the Marakoopa Cave. This cave is a "wet" cave. What that means is there is still water that runs through it at all times. The Marakoopa Cave was first discovered in 1906 and it was initially known as Byards Cave. Two boys, James and Harry Byard, are believed to have originally entered the cave via its top entrance. The boys kept their discovery a secret, returning to the cave in 1910. James Byard obtained a land grant which included the cave area and its discovery became common knowledge in 1911, by which time a track had been cut to the river entrance, which is currently in use, and a heavy iron door covered the entrance.

In 1912 Marakoopa Cave was opened to the public, lit by 24 handheld carbide bicycle lamps which were carried by James, Harry and their younger siblings. In 1921 the cave was purchased from James Byard by the Tasmanian Government Tourist Bureau, but Harry stayed on as a guide for a number of years and helped with the installation of the first electric lighting system, switched on in May 1940 by the then Premier of Tasmania.

Glow Worms

The King Solomons Cave is a dry cave. It may have been carved out by water but does not have any in it at this time. King Solomons Cave was first discovered in 1906 by two local men, including a Mr Pochin, who promptly obtained a lease from the crown and began to operate the cave as a tourist attraction under the name Pochin’s Cave. In those early days, visitors had to negotiate a 40 ft drop from the surface via a series of stepladders, and thence through the cave on wooden planks. Two years later, Hobart man Mr Edward James heard of the discovery, obtained a 21 year lease of the land, improved access and installed acetylene gas lanterns to light the caves.

King Solomons Cave officially opened to the public on 31 October 1908, a highly organised and well attended occasion, by the then Premier of Tasmania. In the early days, the caves were generally only opened for organised expeditions. The high cost of recreational travel meant that tourists to this remote area were few and far between, and keeping the caves open was very expensive.

The present entrance was developed in 1927. Construction involved the widening of a secondary entrance and the clearing of rock and debris to open up a series of chambers to link the new entrance to the public area. At the same time, a generator and electric lighting system were also installed, the new lighting being switched on for the public for the first time in December 1928 – a time when the township of Mole Creek was not connected to the Hydro Electric grid.

Since then, improvements have continued, ancillary facilities have come and gone, and the caves are now under the care of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

What the above picture shows is the stalactites reaching down to the stalagmites. Now this is formed over thousands of years one drop at a time. Stalactites are the formation of minerals left from drops of water seeping in from the top. The Stalagmites are the formations reaching up towards the ceiling. They are formed when the drop of water drops off the Stalactite and hits the floor. That is when more minerals are deposited. Eventually they connect and create a column.

After the caves we went to Gads Falls. It's a little off the beaten path but well worth the work to get there. Again we found ourselves in primordial rainforest. It would be easy to get lost or turned around there but our fearless leader Ann kept us on the right track.

After we got back to the vans we went back to the B & B for another cozy night of sleep. One well earned as well.

Awaking refreshed again I was very happy for the hearty breakfasts they supplied us. Especially since today we would be trekking in some very inhospitable areas.

Walls of Jerusalem is a national park 89 mi northwest of Hobart. Located in the Tasmanian Central Highlands east of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and west of the Central Plateau Conservation Area. It is south of Mole Creek, and Rowallan Lake. It forms part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The park takes its name from the geological features of the park which are thought to resemble the walls of the city of Jerusalem. As a result many places and features within the park also have Biblical references for names, such as Herods Gate, Lake Salome, Solomons Jewels, Damascus Gate, the Pool of Bethesda. The most prominent feature of the park is King Davids Peak.

Much of the walking track consists of raised boards, from Wild Dog Creek through to Dixon's Kingdom, with the purpose of protecting the fragile alpine vegetation. Walking tracks elsewhere in the park consist of rock, rocky earth, grassland and marsh.

I took one look at this and was convinced that Ann had ingested some "special" brownies when she thought of this part! I was so glad that I had my chia seeds with me so I would have the extra energy to be able to make the hike! I was smart and choose the middle of the line of us but towards the front. That way enough of us had gone through so I wasn't having to break bush but just keep up after the bush was broken through.

I had my day pack with my first aid kit, extra sox, mole skin, my food and water. So I was all ready. I also had my hiking poles in there. I just had to extend them. I decided to get the ones that telescoped out so I could make them just my hight and readjust them if needed depending on the terrain.

The views were just breathtaking and I have to say I was happy I went but I just about pooped out the last hour or so. I really couldn't wait to get back to the vans and in the showers at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge! The lap of luxury it was! I took a really good shower and let the hot water pummel down on my back, then I went to the spa for a really good deep tissue massage with Chocolate oil so my skin wouldn't dry up and fall off! I'm still not really adjusted to the weather over here.

After my massage I joined up with the rest at the Bistro and had the scrumptious Baked Feta and Pumpkin Cannelloni. The Cannelloni's were huge and had Parmesan, Mozzarella, Napoli Sauce over them and a huge side salad as well. I chose the Raspberry Vinaigrette over my salad. I felt that the bite of the Vinaigrette with the sweetness of the Raspberries would pair wonderfully with the cheeses and the Cannelloni. Those and a pint went down really well!

I can't wait for my bed. So I'm off now. I'll see everyone in the morning.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INDIANABON 1/30/2014 5:38AM

    There is so much to see and do - thankfully there are no calories in the virtual food because I have "overeaten" a lot of that virtual food too. Thankfully in real life, I am sticking to my SP regimen! emoticon emoticon

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EMMABE1 1/30/2014 4:35AM

    Wow!! huge blog - but all caught up now as you say!! I'm glad you are finding some suitable meal choices too!!
The Walls of Jerusulem park is rather remote but the views and the experience made it worth the effort!!

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Tassie 1/23 & 24

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We all poured out of the plane and Ann found our vans for us. We sorted our luggage and piled them into the trailer. We all jockeyed about and piled into the vans and off we went!

Launceston is such an interesting city. Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania after Hobart. With a population of 106,153, Launceston is the ninth largest non-capital city in Australia.

Settled by Europeans in March 1806, Launceston is one of Australia's oldest cities and is home to many historic buildings. Like many Australian places, it was named after a town in the United Kingdom – in this case, Launceston, Cornwall.

Launceston seems to have been home to several firsts such as the first use of anaesthetic in the Southern Hemisphere, the first Australian city to have underground sewers and the first Australian city to be lit by hydroelectricity. The city has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons.

The first inhabitants of the area of Launceston were largely nomadic Tasmanian Aborigines believed to have been part of the North Midlands Tribe. The first white visitors did not arrive until 1798, when George Bass and Matthew Flinders were sent to explore the possibility that there was a strait between Australia and Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). They originally landed in Port Dalrymple (the mouth of the Tamar River), 25 mi to the north-west of Launceston.

Initially the settlement was called Patersonia, however, Paterson later changed the name to Launceston in honour of the New South Wales Governor Captain Philip Gidley King, who was born in Launceston, Cornwall.

By 1827, Launceston's population had climbed to 2,000 and the town had become an export center, mainly for the colony's northern pastoral industry. Small hotels and breweries began to emerge in the 1820s, before larger, more "substantial" hotels were built in the 1830s. Sporting groups, political groups, churches and schools were often established in these hotels, however, they also hosted plays, musical soirees and readings, until theatres were built.

Launceston is located in the Tamar Valley, Northern Tasmania. The valley was formed by volcanic and glacial forces over 10 million years ago. The city is located approximately 28 mi south of the Bass Strait, with its closest neighbor-city being Devonport, approximately 62 mi to the north west. Launceston combines steep (originally heavily wooded) ridges and low-lying areas (originally wetlands – with parts of the suburbs of Inveresk and Invermay below high-tide level). As a result, areas of Launceston are subject to landslip problems, while others are liable to poor drainage and periodic flooding. The topography of the area is not conducive to easy dispersion of airborne pollution, due to the phenomenon of thermal inversion.

Where the rivers converge

During recent years the city's air quality has improved. Studies indicate that 73% percent of air pollution in Launceston and surrounding areas during the winter period is caused by wood smoke, while about 8% is from motor vehicle pollution. During the early 1990s about 60% of households used wood heaters, but now only 25–30% of households use wood heating. The 2008 winter was the first time Launceston's air quality did not exceed PM10, since air quality monitoring began in 1997.

Launceston is situated at the confluence of the South Esk River and the North Esk River, forming the Tamar River estuary. It is used for commercial and recreational shipping and boating. In earlier years, ocean going shipping used the river to obtain access to the Port of Launceston wharves located in the city center and Invermay. The Port for Launceston is now located at the George Town suburb of Bell Bay, some 25 mi downstream on the east bank of the Tamar estuary, close to the river mouth. The South Esk River is the longest river in Tasmania. It starts in the North East Mountains near Roses Tier and flows through the Fingal Valley where it passes through the towns of Fingal and Avoca before flowing into the Northern Midlands where it flows through the towns of Evandale, Perth, Longford and Hadspen before finally reaching Launceston via the Cataract Gorge. The river is dammed at Lake Trevallyn on the upper reaches of the Cataract Gorge, with water being diverted into the Trevallyn Power Station with runoff flowing into the remainder of the Cataract Gorge and eventually merging with the Tamar River. The North Esk River starts in the Northallerton Valley in Tasmania's north-east mountains and winds its way to Launceston via the Corra Linn Gorge at White Hills. The St Patrick's River, the largest tributary of the North Esk, is dammed at Nunamara to provide the majority of Launceston's town water since the mid 1800s.

Launceston has a cool, temperate climate, with four distinct seasons. The city is located in the Tamar Valley and is surrounded by many large hills and mountains. With this type of topography, Launceston's weather patterns can change considerably in a short period of time.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported that 2007 was the warmest year ever recorded in Launceston since temperatures were first recorded in 1884. Temperatures ranged from a minimum of 46.6 °F to a maximum of 66.6 °F. During 2006 and 2007, Launceston had the hottest maximums throughout the state. In 2008, Launceston had the highest average maximum temperature out of all Tasmanian cities with 65.5 °F.

Many of the buildings in the City's central business district (CBD) were constructed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Launceston's many well preserved Victorian and Georgian buildings (including the Launceston synagogue, a rare example of architecture in Egyptian Revival style) together with its diverse collection of art-deco architecture (such as Holyman House and Lucks Corner in the CBD, the former Star Theatre in Invermay and the former Launceston General Hospital) give the city an unusual period ambience.

The Launceston Synagogue is a heritage-listed building located in St. John's Street, Launceston, Tasmania. Built in 1844 by Tasmanian builders Barton and Bennell, the building is Australia's second-oldest synagogue (after the Hobart Synagogue), the oldest place of non-Christian worship in Launceston, and is a rare example of an Egyptian revival architecture in Australia. The building features a distinctly trapezoidal facade and main window bearing the Star of David with a single balcony on the inside accessed via the rear of the building.

The synagogue closed as a house of worship in 1871 (re-opening again in the 1930s for a period), and today the building is in the care of the National Trust of Australia.

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

This is a really cool place and I could get lost in here all day and not be bored! It is not only a museum and art gallery it also has a planetarium as well!

The Planetarium is only $6 for an adult and let me tell you that is dirt cheep! In the USA they are at least $20-25! So I couldn't help myself I went to check it out.

Star Gazing

The Planetarium opened in 1968, and its current home since 2009 has been the QVMAG Museum at Inveresk. The Planetarium operates a Zeiss ZKP3 star projector in conjunction with a fulldome digital system. Each year, thousands of people gaze up onto its famous dome to watch exciting feature presentations and to experience the thrill of feeling that they are out under the stars. I was in full geek mode. My husband would be very proud of me.

After that I decided to check out the rest of the grounds and buildings. In one of them I found a wonderful exhibit on the Tasmanian Tiger. This is an animal that is believed to be extinct. They have seen occasional sightings way out where there are few to no people. So there is some debate in the scientific communities. Here's what I've learned though.

The thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped back) or the Tasmanian wolf. Native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, it is thought to have become extinct in the 20th century. It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinidae; specimens of other members of the family have been found in the fossil record dating back to the early Miocene.
The thylacine had become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before British settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian devil. Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat. Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none have been conclusively proven.

Surviving evidence suggests that it was a relatively shy, nocturnal creature with the general appearance of a medium-to-large-size dog, except for its stiff tail and abdominal pouch (which was reminiscent of a kangaroo) and a series of dark transverse stripes that radiated from the top of its back (making it look a bit like a tiger).

Like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere, from which it obtained two of its common names, the thylacine was an apex predator. As a marsupial, it was not closely related to these placental mammals, but because of convergent evolution it displayed the same general form and adaptations. Its closest living relative is thought to be either the Tasmanian devil or numbat. The thylacine was one of only two marsupials to have a pouch in both sexes (the other being the water opossum). The male thylacine had a pouch that acted as a protective sheath, covering his external reproductive organs while he ran through thick brush. It has been described as a formidable predator because of its ability to survive and hunt prey in extremely sparsely populated areas.

The thylacine is a strong candidate for cloning and other molecular science projects due to its recent demise and the existence of several well preserved specimens.

The modern thylacine first appeared about 4 million years ago. Species of the family Thylacinidae date back to the beginning of the Miocene; since the early 1990s, at least seven fossil species have been uncovered at Riversleigh, part of Lawn Hill National Park in northwest Queensland. Dickson's thylacine (Nimbacinus dicksoni) is the oldest of the seven discovered fossil species, dating back to 23 million years ago. This thylacinid was much smaller than its more recent relatives. The largest species, the powerful thylacine (Thylacinus potens) which grew to the size of a wolf, was the only species to survive into the late Miocene. In late Pleistocene and early Holocene times, the modern thylacine was widespread (although never numerous) throughout Australia and New Guinea.
An example of convergent evolution, the thylacine showed many similarities to the members of the dog family, Canidae, of the Northern Hemisphere: sharp teeth, powerful jaws, raised heels and the same general body form. Since the thylacine filled the same ecological niche in Australia as the dog family did elsewhere, it developed many of the same features. Despite this, it is unrelated to any of the Northern Hemisphere predators.

The thylacine was able to open its jaws to an unusual extent: up to 120 degrees. This capability can be seen in part in David Fleay's short black-and-white film sequence of a captive thylacine from 1933. The jaws were muscular but weak and had 46 teeth.

The thylacine was a nocturnal and crepuscular hunter, spending the daylight hours in small caves or hollow tree trunks in a nest of twigs, bark or fern fronds. It tended to retreat to the hills and forest for shelter during the day and hunted in the open heath at night. Early observers noted that the animal was typically shy and secretive, with awareness of the presence of humans and generally avoiding contact, though it occasionally showed inquisitive traits. At the time, much stigma existed in regard to its "fierce" nature, however this is likely to be due to its perceived threat to agriculture.

There is evidence for at least some year-round breeding (cull records show joeys discovered in the pouch at all times of the year), although the peak breeding season was in winter and spring. They would produce up to four cubs per litter (typically two or three), carrying the young in a pouch for up to three months and protecting them until they were at least half adult size. Early pouch young were hairless and blind, but they had their eyes open and were fully furred by the time they left the pouch. After leaving the pouch, and until they were developed enough to assist, the juveniles would remain in the lair while their mother hunted. Thylacines only once bred successfully in captivity, in Melbourne Zoo in 1899. Their life expectancy in the wild is estimated to have been 5 to 7 years, although captive specimens survived up to 9 years.

The Tasmanian Tiger is even on the coat of arms of Tasmania.

The Cataract Gorge was beautiful but I just couldn't get the legs to cooperate. So I let the group go to that one while I just cranny poked around town and rested while having some wonderful fruit that Ann gave me and some coffee to perk me up.

They came back for me and then we went on a whirl wind tour of the amazing wine counties. Since I don't drink I found myself being the designated driver which was scary for me because you all drive on the wrong side of the road and the drivers side is on the wrong side of the car! After a while and some practice I did fine. I have to say it was quite funny watching all of my "mates" being all tipsy. At least no one got ill. I appreciated that being the sober person. Ah time for some meds. I'll need pain meds tonight for sure. lol

Driving into Deloraine was so magical. It is classified as a National Trust Town and easy to see why.

Deloraine is a municipality on the Meander River, in the central north of Tasmania, Australia. It is 50 km west of Launceston and 52 km south of Devonport along the Bass Highway. It is part of the Meander Valley Council, as of 2011, the town of Deloraine has a population of 2,745.

Deloraine, like most Tasmanian towns, has a temperate and wet climate.

The region was explored in 1821 by Captain Roland, who was searching for farm land. The land was granted to new settlers, and the town is now a major agricultural centre, with a large number of farms of all types in the area. The town got its name from a character in the poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel, written by sir Walter Scott. Deloraine Post Office opened on 29 October 1836.

The town won the State Tidy Towns award in 1992, 1993 and 1995, and the Australian Community of the Year award in 1997.

While Deloraine is a predominantly rural farming town, it is also aimed at pleasing tourists, which visit because of its culture and location also serving as a base to explore areas such as Cradle Mountain, the Great Western Tiers, Mole Creek and the Central Highlands. Farms in the area produce poppies, herbs, onions and potatoes; as is typical produce for the Tasmanian climate. Deloraine is also home to the 41° South salmon and ginseng aqua farm.

The main street of Deloraine, with the Great Western Tiers in the background.

The town currently operates two sawmills previously owned by Gunns as well as facilities that manufacture fertiliser, farm equipment, water tanks and street signs. The nearby opium processing factory, Tasmanian Alkaloids, located in Westbury offers some employment for the town.

The Craft Fair

The annual Tasmanian Craft Fair takes place in Deloraine, it attracts around 34,000 people annually.

During the craft fair, there are 13 venues and over 200 stalls operating around the town. Because of this, as well as the large population of artists, the town is considered a cultural center.

Being totally exhausted now we all are ready to get to our accommodation for the night The Bluestone Bed and Breakfast. That way we can all clean up and get ready for a wonderful dinner at Settlers Restaurant. I can't wait to see what they have on the menu.

After that I am so going to bed. I can't wait to look about this weekend. I hear there is a Cheese Farm and we all know how I love to eat cheese! Also there is a Raspberry farm? I can't wait to see how they grow their canes. Maybe I can start growing some in my garden? Hmmm, now I'm thinking of fresh raspberries. Darn it I just ate.

Just when I thought my gastronomical delights was met or exceeded then I hear about a Chocolate Factory. Ah, Cheese, Raspberries and Chocolate oh my! How can I go wrong? Now just for a real glass of iced tea and I'm in heaven!

Well this will be for the morrow. It's time for sleep.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INDIANABON 1/25/2014 6:24AM

    Patty, I love reading your blogs - you take so much time and do all this research that helps the sights of this trek come alive even more! Thanks. emoticon emoticon

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EMMABE1 1/25/2014 5:08AM

    You are about up to date - good work Patty.
Tassie has lots of great foods - I think to do with the cooler clean air there - straight off Antarctica!!

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Tassie 1/22 & 23

Friday, January 24, 2014

Well first things first. A bright and early morning it was. For a good reason as well. We went on a tour to see Duck Bill Platypus. They are such interesting creatures. It's like they can't make up their minds. Bills like a duck, Fur instead of feathers and tails like beavers. Not to mention the Spurs that the males have. But I am ahead of myself.

The tour started out really early in the morning. The sun was up but my brain was not. They did provide Tea & Coffee which helped. There were also breakfast type nibbles as well. They drove us to a trail head and then the "walk" ensued. It was very hard and difficult too. But the glorious pool at the end of the "hike" was well worth it.

We all arranged ourselves around it and waited for the magic to happen. It didn't take long. While we waited they gave us some information on the Platypus.

The platypus is a semiaquatic mammal that lives in eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth.

Platypus eggs

Monotremes (from the Greek monos "single" + trema "hole", referring to the cloaca) are mammals that lay eggs (Prototheria) instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials (Metatheria) and placental mammals (Eutheria). The only surviving examples of monotremes are all indigenous to Australia and New Guinea, although there is evidence that they were once more widespread. Among living mammals, they comprise the platypus and four species of echidnas (or spiny anteaters). There is currently some debate regarding monotreme taxonomy. Monotreme young are sometimes called puggles.

Like other mammals, monotremes are warm-blooded with a high metabolic rate (though not as high as other mammals); have hair on their bodies; produce milk through mammary glands to feed their young; have a single bone in their lower jaw; and have three middle-ear bones.

Monotremes lay eggs. However, the egg is retained for some time within the mother, which actively provides the egg with nutrients. Monotremes also lactate, but have no defined nipples, excreting the milk from their mammary glands via openings in their skin. All species are long-lived, with low rates of reproduction and relatively prolonged parental care of infants.

Extant monotremes lack teeth as adults. Fossil forms and modern platypus young have a "tribosphenic" form of molars (with the occlusal surface formed by three cusps arranged in a triangle), which is one of the hallmarks of extant mammals. Some recent work suggests that monotremes acquired this form of molar independently of placental mammals and marsupials, although this is not well established. Monotreme jaws are constructed somewhat differently from those of other mammals, and the jaw opening muscle is different. As in all true mammals, the tiny bones that conduct sound to the inner ear are fully incorporated into the skull, rather than lying in the jaw as in cynodonts and other premammalian synapsids; this feature, too, is now claimed to have evolved independently in monotremes.

The monotremes also have extra bones in the shoulder girdle, including an interclavicle and coracoid, which are not found in other mammals. Monotremes retain a reptile-like gait, with legs on their sides of, rather than underneath, their bodies. The monotreme leg bears a spur in the ankle region; the spur is not functional in echidnas, but contains a powerful venom in the male platypus.

The Platypus are the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species have been found in the fossil record.

The unusual appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals, the male platypus having a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans. The unique features of the platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognizable and iconic symbol of Australia; it has appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of its 20-cent coin. The platypus is the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.

Until the early 20th century, it was hunted for its fur, but it is now protected throughout its range. Although captive breeding programs have had only limited success and the platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution, it is not under any immediate threat.

While both male and female platypuses are born with ankle spurs, only the male's spurs produce venom, composed largely of defensin-like proteins (DLPs), three of which are unique to the platypus. The DLPs are produced by the immune system of the platypus. Although powerful enough to kill smaller animals such as dogs, the venom is not lethal to humans, but the pain is so excruciating that the victim may be incapacitated. Edema rapidly develops around the wound and gradually spreads throughout the affected limb. Information obtained from case histories and anecdotal evidence indicates the pain develops into a long-lasting hyperalgesia (a heightened sensitivity to pain) that persists for days or even months. Venom is produced in the crural glands of the male, which are kidney-shaped alveolar glands connected by a thin-walled duct to a calcaneus spur on each hind limb. The female platypus, in common with echidnas, has rudimentary spur buds which do not develop (dropping off before the end of their first year) and lack functional crural glands.
Since only males produce venom and production rises during the breeding season, it may be used as an offensive weapon to assert dominance during this period.

Close up of Spur

Showing the sac holding the venom

Monotremes (for the other species, see Echidna) are the only mammals (apart from at least one species of dolphin) known to have a sense of electroreception: they locate their prey in part by detecting electric fields generated by muscular contractions. The platypus' electroreception is the most sensitive of any monotreme.

The electroreceptors are located in rostrocaudal rows in the skin of the bill, while mechanoreceptors (which detect touch) are uniformly distributed across the bill. The electrosensory area of the cerebral cortex is contained within the tactile somatosensory area, and some cortical cells receive input from both electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors, suggesting a close association between the tactile and electric senses. Both electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors in the bill dominate the somatotopic map of the platypus brain.

Showing the shorter lower "bill"

The platypus feeds by neither sight nor smell, closing its eyes, ears, and nose each time it dives. Rather, when it digs in the bottom of streams with its bill, its electroreceptors detect tiny electrical currents generated by muscular contractions of its prey, so enabling it to distinguish between animate and inanimate objects, which continuously stimulate its mechanoreceptors. Experiments have shown the platypus will even react to an "artificial shrimp" if a small electrical current is passed through it.

Recent studies say that the eyes of the platypus could possibly be more similar to those of Pacific hagfish or Northern Hemisphere lampreys than to those of most tetrapods. Also it contains double cones, which most mammals do not have.

Platypus eyes

Although the platypus' eyes are small and not used under water, several features indicate that vision played an important role in its ancestors. The corneal surface and the adjacent surface of the lens is flat while the posterior surface of the lens is steeply curved, similar to the eyes of other aquatic mammals such as otters and sea-lions.

After our wonderful outing I chose to rest since the next day was going to be very busy!

After a wonderful dinner of all the fresh vegetables one could eat I had a great sleep and was up bright and early ready for our flight. It was only a 2 hour flight and the plane was a small plane and seemed to be mostly filled by our group. That was great so we could chat the whole way there!

To Be Continued

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JAOTAO 1/24/2014 11:54AM

    Wow - what an informative blog! Thanks for posting this!

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EMMABE1 1/24/2014 4:14AM

    Great - I have actually never seen a platypus in the wild - they are very timid - I have seen them in wildlife parks though!! Interesting animals!!

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Tassie 1/21

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wow, after working hard to catch up with you all I had a hard time getting up for the tour. I'm so glad I did though! Here's what I learned.

The Cape Wickham Lighthouse is a lighthouse on King Island, Tasmania. At 48 meters tall, it is Australia's tallest lighthouse. It is also the tallest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere! It is also listed on the Commonwealth Heritage Register.

The lighthouse was originally established in 1861, in response to the sinking of the barque Cataraqui sixteen years earlier, a disaster which had resulted in the deaths of four hundred people.

A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts having the foremasts rigged square and only the aftermast rigged fore-and-aft.

In the 18th century, the British Royal Navy used the term bark for a nondescript vessel that did not fit any of its usual categories.

A Rigging Schematic

A Barque at Full Sails

While it was being constructed, some worried that the lighthouse would cause more shipwrecks than it prevented, as lighthouses usually showed the way to safety rather than warning of danger as the Cape Wickham lighthouse was designed to do. The lighthouse was completed and shipwrecks frequently continued to occur until the Currie Lighthouse was completed in 1879.

The Currie Lighthouse was built following agitation by Archibald Currie and others for a lighthouse at Currie Harbor in 1879. Planned and fabricated by the Chance Brothers in England, it was devised as a 69 ft tall square pyramidal truss iron tower with an iron cylinder centered inside and then shipped to Tasmania to be erected.

Currie Lighthouse

The lightsource's focal plane is situated 151 ft above sea level. The adjacent keeper's house was turned into a museum in 1980.

Lighhouse Light

The Cape Wickham lighthouse was built from locally quarried stone, the lighthouse was manned by a superintendent until the light was automated in the 1920s. The superintendent often came into conflict with hunters and other established inhabitants of the island, with one 1873 report stating:

There are certain lawless men who have taken up their residence on the island who make a practice of annoying the Superintendent in every possible way, destroying his cattle, pulling down the fences and taking his hay and in fact they say they are determined to make the place too hot for him, and I much fear it will end in some serious injury to the station or perhaps to the light itself.
—from Guiding Lights by Katherine Stanley

Cape Wickham Lighthouse

The superintendents were required to be extremely self sufficient, as only one supply ship visited the site a year. Some of the lightkeepers resorted to looting and theft to supplement these supplies, with one keeper being dismissed for storing goods that his brother had looted from a shipwreck.

In the 1920s, it was determined that it was no longer necessary for the light to be manned on a full-time basis, and automation systems were added to the lighthouse. At this time, a number of the surrounding buildings were also demolished, including the superintendent's residence. The lighthouse continued to be looked after by the lighthouse keeper from nearby Currie.

During preparations for the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse, it was discovered that it had never been officially opened. To rectify this oversight, Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce officially opened the lighthouse in a ceremony on November 5th 2011.

There are eleven timber flights of stairs in the lighthouse, with twenty steps each, which must be climbed in order to reach the top. Surrounding the lighthouse are the remains of a number of associated buildings, including a small church. There are also a number of gravestones, many belonging to those who were shipwrecked in the area after the lighthouse was built.

One of the other stops that was so wonderful was the King Island Dairy. As one who just LOVES cheese it was so hard to keep myself in check.

Welcome to King Island - a beautiful little island between Victoria and Tasmania's North West coast, in the Roaring Forties of Bass Strait. It's rare that mother nature creates an environment so perfect for honing the art of cheese making. Today, the herds that graze on its pristine, wind-swept pastures produce some of the purest, sweetest milk in the world. With a heritage in dairy since the early 1900s, our coveted milk is collected by the dairy every day, where our highly skilled craftsmen make world class and award winning specialty cheese and dairy products.

The girls hard at work!

Swiss-born Ueli Berger has an inexhaustible passion for cheesemaking which began very early in life. As the grandson of a cheesemaker and son of a dairy farmer, his European childhood provided plenty of opportunities to explore the craft. After studying cheesemaking in Switzerland for three years, Berger was chosen from a group of 48 cheesemakers to work for an Australian soft cheese manufacturer. In 1998, he moved to King Island to become King Island Dairy's head cheesemaker. With a career now spanning more than 25 years, Berger has earned acclaim both nationally and internationally. This includes awards from the New York Fancy Food Show and the World Championship Cheese Contest (Wisconsin, USA), to the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers' Association, the Dairy Industry Association of Australia, and the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

Ueli in the maturing room at King Island Dairy

Here are the types they have.

Soft White cheese is surface ripened, ageing from the exterior to the interior through a process that enhances the character of the cheese. When ripe, the center of a soft white cheese should have a delightful creamy soft texture when cut. The exterior coating will have a velvety white rind. Here in America it is known as Brie. A heavenly cheese that pairs well with just about anything from Roast Beef to Fruit! They carry a full 8 different varieties.

Washed Rind cheese is among the world's strongest smelling yet sweetest tasting cheeses. The robust aroma with a sweet and earthy flavor that is slightly nutty. The cheese surface is washed during production with a brine solution containing a special bacterium, brevi bacterium linens (also known as brevi or B linens). The Brine solution gives the rind its distinctive aroma and red-orange color. They have two different types.

Blue Vein cheese is a unique category of mold ripened cheese as it ripens from the interior, as opposed to the exterior (like soft white cheese). It mostly has a strong tangy flavor, a pungent aroma and a smooth and creamy texture. Blue vein cheese is distinguished by a network of blue-green veins of mold. The veins are created during production when the cheese is 'spiked' or 'pierced' to allow oxygen in, which promotes the growth of the blue mold. Similar to the "Blue Cheese" here in America. They have six different varieties at this dairy.

The origin of the name cheddar comes from 'cheddaring', a cheese making method that originated in Somerset, England which refers to the way curds are managed during production.

Cheddar is a close textured cheese which, depending on its age, has a delicate to rich flavor. Cheddar can be waxed, cloth wrapped, smoked or flavored. The many flavor variations of cheddar reflect different cheese making methods and the length of maturation they are allowed to attain. Aged cheddar crumbles in the mouth whereas mild cheddar will slice well for use in sandwiches.

Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar

Black Label

King Island Dairy Black Label is an artisan range, made by hand under the tutelage of our Head Cheesemaker, Ueli Berger.

A unique mix of cultures are blended with rich King Island milk, creating the signature flavor for each King Island Dairy Black Label cheese. Throughout the maturation process the King Island Dairy cheesemakers maintain a watchful eye, responding to the varying characters of each wheel. Only when the cheesemaker deems it ready is the cheese allowed to leave the sanctuary of the island. There are three Bries, one Wax Cheddar and one Cloth Matured Cheddar.

The King Island Dairy Black Label range is only available from select fine food retailers, restaurants and hotels.

Black Label Triple Cream Blue

King Island Dairy Pure Cream is a voluptuous and indulgent cream that is pasteurized and naturally thick, containing no preservatives, additives or thickeners. It has a milk fat content of around 53%, making it even more rich and creamy than most thickened or double cream. Cream is perfect to dollop or spoon onto dishes as it holds its shape well. It's a great accompaniment to desserts and soups and can be added to hot dishes to enrich the flavor. Just reading about it I've gained weight! Mmmmm.

The great attraction of King Island Dairy's Yoghurt is its rich, creamy and truly indulgent flavors that are tantalisingly moreish. Looks like cream but tastes like yoghurt. Sticks to the spoon when dolloped. Extremely versatile - a delicious treat on muesli, fruit and desserts or just by it self. It contains no preservatives or thickeners and has the added benefit of acidophilus. Acidophilus is a good bacteria that your intestines need for proper digestion.

Vanilla Bean

Indulge yourself with this decadently rich and creamy yoghurt from King Island's lush green pastures - the natural source of our famous award winning dairy products.

Desserts. Two of the finer things in life - King Island Dairy Pure Cream and Belgian chocolate, combined to create our dairy dessert sensation. Truly indulgent, rich and creamy. A Decadent mouth-watering treat on its own or dolloped onto seasonal fruit. What a great way to end a meal.

After getting back from our tour I decided to take a look at the Calcified Forest. The Calcified Forest is 7000 years old! These remains are all that remain of an ancient forest, revealed when the lime-laden sand which had covered and preserved the stumps has been re-exposed over the years from the constant Roaring Forties storms from the Southern Ocean. Just the thought of all that sand covering the trees and then being uncovered was just mind blowing for me. After going there however, I could see how it was possible. The wind was very strong and constant. Several times I thought I was going to be blown over even with my walker. I have to say it was very interesting to see. Here are a couple of pictures of what I saw.

Here is a map of where the forest is.

Well there is just enough time for supper and a nap and then join in the Penguin Watching Tour.

That was just what I needed. That nap was worth its weight in gold!

I got to the tour in plenty of time and walked around learning a bit about the penguins that we'd be seeing tonight.

The scientific name of the Little Penguin (formerly known as Fairy Penguin or Blue Penguin) – Eudyptula minor – is most descriptive. Not only are these penguins the smallest of the species, but Eudyptula means ‘good little diver’.

They are only 16 in tall and approximately 2.4 lbs. The Little Penguins are the smallest penguin species in the world. They are flightless seabirds who breed in colonies along the southern coast of Australia, as far north as Port Stephens in the east to Fremantle in the west.

The crowd returns

Their dense waterproof plumage is dark blue on the upper parts of the body and white on the underside. The single Australian subspecies is distinguished from the five New Zealand subspecies by having a margin of white feathers on the tail and on the rear edge of each flipper.

You can see from this photo just how dense their plumage really is.

The Little Penguins usually breed on offshore islands and along parts of the mainland coast that are inaccessible to predators. Most breeding sites are adjacent to the sea, with burrows in sand or soil or under vegetation, but in some areas the birds nest in caves or crevices in rock falls. The type and structure of vegetation in the breeding areas varies from sparsely-vegetated caves and rock screes through grass-, herb- and scrublands, to woodland and forests.

The world breeding population is thought to be between 350-600,000 birds, comprising 300-500 000 in Australia. These figures are undoubtedly underestimates as new colonies are still being found. Bass Strait, with 60% of the known breeding population, is the stronghold for the species in Australia. However less than 5% of breeding pairs are found on mainland Tasmania, where ever-increasing human pressure will probably result in these colonies extinction. The largest populations are found on Tasmania's offshore islands.

The Three Musketeers

Their breeding distribution in Australia, extends from the Shoalwater Island Group (Penguin and Carnac Islands), near Perth in Western Australia, across the southern coast (including Bass Strait and Tasmania), and up the east coast as far as South Solitary Island in New South Wales (near Coffs Harbor).

While the species is not endangered, some populations are threatened and penguins no longer breed at some previously occupied sites. In addition, the size of some breeding colonies has diminished since European settlement in both Australia and New Zealand. Conversely, several new colonies have become established in the recent past, for example at St. Kilda in Victoria, where approximately 200 birds now breed on a breakwater constructed for the 1956 Olympic Games.

The loving couple in their nest.

A parent with the chicks.

The Little Penguin’s streamlined shape and its efficient flippers enable it to seek prey in shallow short dives, typically between 10m and 30m. Its diet consists of small fish, some squid or krill (shrimp-like crustaceans) and occasionally crab larvae or sea horses from the sea floor.

Tiny Krill

Now for one that you can actually see!

Each evening as it gets dark, groups of penguins gather beyond the surf where they may be heard calling to each other. They surf in from their day at sea and walk up the beach to their burrows. In large colonies, hundreds of birds may come ashore in a brief time.

Tons at a time

Some Little Penguins return to their burrows year round, but most stay at sea over autumn and winter.

Fairy penguins have a distinctive song, which moves from a bass rumble to a trumpeting cry, accompanied by flipper, beak and body movements. At night, and especially in the breeding season, the din of a penguin colony can be considerable.

Researchers at the Phillip Island Nature Reserve have been following the fate of one particular male penguin since 1994. On one foraging trip while gathering food for his growing chick, the penguin dove down to 57 metres - three metres deeper than the previous deepest dive of 54 meters.

Fairy penguins live on average for 7 years, and some retain the same mate for life. Most Little Penguins do not breed until they are two or three years old. Breeding is roughly seasonal, peaking around spring with some pairs breeding twice in one year.

A clutch of two white eggs is laid in spring. Male and female birds share the 36-day period of egg incubation. When the chicks hatch they are initially helpless and are brooded continuously for about 2-3 weeks. After this period both adults leave the chicks unguarded in the nest during the day, while they forage at sea to obtain food for the rapidly growing chicks. By 8 weeks of age the chicks have lost their down and acquired the waterproof plumage necessary for independent life at sea. These young birds are not seen again at their original colonies for at least a year and may disperse widely during this period.

Itty Bitty Baby

Moulting chicks that only a mother could love!

Well it is really time to go to bed. It's been a fun filled day with the group and I can't wait to see and learn about what is around the bend. Have a great night everyone. Sleep well.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

INDIANABON 1/22/2014 5:45AM

    Wow! I think you must have remembered every detail our tour guide told us about! Great blog! emoticon

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EMMABE1 1/22/2014 12:36AM

    Another great blog - I love your blogs I learn so much!!

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